Urban Policy & City Planning is an online one-month online immersive certificate training course organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at Impact and Policy Research Institute, IMPRI, New Delhi in the month of July 2023. An informative and panel discussion on the topic “Urban Policy & City Governance in New India: Challenges & Opportunities” was held on July 26, 2023, by Dr M Ramachandran Former IAS officer and Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.
The session was opened by Dr Rumi Aijaz, Senior Fellow and Head, Urban Policy Research Initiative, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), who draws a brief about the lectures given by the experts from various parts of India on their respective subjects and sharing their concerns that exists in India’s urban area and offered various ideas to overcome those challenges. In conclusion, the speaker was graciously invited to share their insightful and thought-provoking ideas with the participants on urban policy and city governance in new India.
Introduction: Urban Local Bodies
Dr M Ramachandran, began with, what is the concept of city or town, migration pattern (from rural to urban particularly) and contribution of the urban area to the economy. Question was raised ‘What are we doing about the urban areas schemes?’
First point, for urban level government/ bodies there are 18 subjects listed and vary from state to state, e.g., requirement of water, waste management etc. We are in a confused state of affairs, unlike New York, London, where development in the cities is matter of subject for Mayor’s council. Over the period of time there has been some changes but the local government has not reached at that stage where they can perform their own, in terms of capacity and functions. In 2005, JNNURM was introduced, since then central government has been started taking up some initiatives for the cities.
Some other initiatives like AMRUT, Smart Cities Mission, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Housing for All, were discussed. Even today there is a vacuum as far as where do the fresh migrants will go and how do they find a proper shelter so that they can continue to live. Short comings in the scheme of things are urban transport or mobility within a city is a subject which is not assigned to the ULBs, reason could be the lack of ability to manage the bus, metros, mass rapid transit system, instead they are managed by State Governments. Example of Singapore was given, in terms of, extent of their potential in converting wastewater into potable water and they provide it as loo water.
Issues for future India
He elaborated about the problems which a city can face in the future regarding the water as water bodies has slowly started disappearing and can only be seen in the extreme conditions of water logging or flooding. To address issues of this kind, master plans are to be made in order to properly plan and manage the resources as well as the cities.
There is a lack of interest of the people and also platform where citizen participation in the governance process of the cities. Mixed situation exists in the matter of urban development, there is much which needs to be done and there is much we all have already experienced, reason could be, either the required initiatives are not taken, or people are not able to participate in the process.
Case Study: Delhi
Moving ahead, prof. Ramachandran refer to the master plan of the areas and should also look at the infrastructural facilitation plan, certain areas get good infrastructure whereas some areas do even lack basic amenities, that is why some missions like Jal Jeevan Programs are supposed to address those requirements. Another case study highlighted by the speaker was of Delhi, hierarchy of the authorities like New Delhi Municipal council, city corporation, development authorities present there to manage and facilitate urban infrastructure. Traditionally State Governments has the better say over any other elected body of the city. Speaker also suggested a way in which the gap between the municipal councils and citizens could be lessened.
Investments for Urban Infrastructure
Speaker, then, discussed about the report from World Bank, huge investment which is required for urban infrastructure. Also, the report of Reserve Bank of India, on Municipal finances and talked about the need to improve it through property tax as a source through better governance in which citizens can be encouraged to participate and make payments online.
Other issues highlighted in the discussion was that of proper governance arrangements, i.e., each city should look at where we stand with regard to water availability and supply today and what is the improvement which is needed and how are we planning to move forward with it. He shared his own experience of association with one of the states where the constitution provides for having a metropolitan planning committee.
To conclude with, Dr M Ramachandran, drove focus of the participant towards programs initiated by central governments on industrial corridors, etc. because gone are the days we could limit our thinking to the standard aid down by the municipal bodies. Everything and many things ae happening beyond limits. Limited cities in this country are found where there is water metro is possibility other that road and rail transport.
As a citizen of the country, we have to think in terms of how more resources can become available. Time has passed when we use to look up to the central/ state government to provide everything, we have to think in terms of how and where we participate in the city’s developmental process. Initiatives are required in order to have certain basic facilitation in our cities.
Mansi Garg is a Research Intern at IMPRI.
See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos
Read more session reports for Urban Policy & City Planning: